The bear has fallen through the ice and is drowning. Who will try to save him? You are a lover of nature, but there are limits. Even if you planned carefully it would be a dangerous episode. The bear in his panic might not understand that you had come to help. Even now he is thrashing and filling the frozen air with sounds no bear has ever made before. If only you had not come this way you would have been spared this decision!
How would a person go about saving a bear from drowning? I can see you crawling towards him on the ice. Your arm extended. If you could grab him . . . say . . . where the fur is thickest. If only it were a smaller bear, a cub, for instance, who had wandered away from his mother, but this is a big bear, the same bear that used to attack, used to eat you in your dreams. In truth, you owe this bear nothing. Why did he venture out on the ice after a week of warming? What was he thinking?
Maybe it’s a trap. Maybe all these years he’s been waiting for you to come this way. Well, every March, let’s say, when the ice weakens. And he purposely . . . He knew you would grow old and weaken. Your eyesight, for example, your libido etcetera. But that would make him a very old bear, and, look at him—he’s in his prime.
In medieval times there were trained bears. Their owners would walk around with them on a leash. But it’s too late to train this bear. He must be the grandson of the bear that haunted your childhood, the knowledge of your weakness passed from generation to generation. He is not the kind of bear who would put up with a leash. No, he wants you to rescue him. He is drowning. It is not an act.
What is it you are feeling as you crawl towards him on the ice, inch by inch? The ice heaves, sighs, labors under your weight like a wrecked bed. When you close your eyes it is dark. It is a good thing you have gloves on. Everybody knows bears smell—remember the zoo? Boston? The swan boats, pigeons, your friend Jimmy Bott who died of rheumatic fever? You are growing closer. Although the bear has grown silent, you can smell him. The air is so cold it is hot. If you keep your eyes closed in such conditions they sometimes freeze shut. What use will you be then? What is the use? What is the use of it? On the other hand if you open them, you will see him there, within reach across the cracked and bloody ice, the black muzzle, the desperate claws, the knowing eyes—the great yellow teeth, the intestinal breath. So close he could be you.